competition bureau

Canadian grocery stores are finally being held accountable for profiting off inflation

While Canadians have continued to suffer under drastically increased prices at cash registers for months, it's come to light that in terms of groceries, at least, global inflation isn't the only culprit driving up prices, which has left consumers rightfully indignant.

Politicians and the public alike have been demanding that supermarkets be held accountable for using the excuse of inflation to jack up prices — and their profit margins — even further, and it appears that their calls have just been answered.

The Competition Bureau of Canada, an independent regulator of competition in the nation's markets, has decided to probe our major grocery store chains in light of the fact that the prices of their products have risen more than actual inflation rates — 9.7 per cent vs. 7.7 per cent, StatCan data showed this summer.

"Grocery prices in Canada are increasing at the fastest rate seen in 40 years," the agency noted in a release announcing its investigation on Monday.

"Many factors are thought to have impacted the price of food including extreme weather, higher input costs, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and supply chain disruptions. Are competition factors also at work? To find out, the Bureau will study this issue."

The governmental arm will focus on determining how much changing competitive dynamics may be contributing to price hikes, how we can help foster better competition in the industry and how we can lower barriers to entry into the sector.

Stakeholders, which include customers, are being asked to submit their thoughts and concerns on the topic through a special online portal or via email by December 16.

The findings of the study, which runs from this month until June, will be released publicly along with these submissions, and will also contain suggestions for next steps from relevant authorities and levels of government.

"This will be a tough study for us to do. It's a complex industry. For market studies like this, we do not have the ability to force grocery retailers to give us documents and data that they use to make pricing decisions. Instead, we have to rely on information that is publicly available or provided voluntarily," the bureau admits. 

"We hope that our work will help to increase competition in Canada to save Canadians money, and make grocery shopping easier."

People have been especially angry with Loblaws after they announced a price freeze on its No Name brand items, which most considered to be a very weak PR stunt. Others even pointed out potential collusion similar to the famed bread price-fixing scheme after Metro chimed in saying that price freezes at this time of year are a common industry practice.

Lead photo by

Ross Dunn

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